Yes, we survived that night in old Manali, and we lived to tell the tale. And the many other crazy tales that followed. Otherwise, how would you be hearing about this story?
In the morning all the creepy crawlers had disappeared, leaving me and Orlin to wonder if all this was nothing but a big squeamish dream. But it didn’t really matter because I was already packed and ready to go.
Tammy and I left our bags at the guest house and went looking for another one, closer to the main tourist area, where I could walk by myself in the dark without worrying about falling into a canal.
We did make one small mistake when we left. We failed to notice the itsy bitsy sign that mentioned the checkout time (almost always 12 o'clock in India). It was an honest mistake that was about to cost us.
During that time, Michel, Daria, and Orlin were on their way to the hospital in new Manali. Apparently Daria was bitten by a dog she accidentally stepped on in Delhi, and had to get a vaccine against rabies. Oddly enough, I think I had heard about it when I was in Delhi.
Eventually, after some searching, Tammy and I found a very pleasant place called the Dragon Guest House, located slightly off the main road but close enough to civilization. We took a room there and went back to the first guest house to check out, pay the bill, and collect our stuff. As you probably already noticed, I didn’t mentioned the name of the deserted guest house we were about to leave, and in a few moments you’ll find out why.
When we got back there we saw a young Indian guy cleaning the guest house. We told him we wanted to leave and thanked him. The guy looked at us and then held out his hand and said: “Give me 600 rupees.”
We looked at him confused. They said that the price for a person per night was 150 rupee. We were two people that slept there for one night, so according to our math we were only supposed to pay 300 rupees. We tried to explain it to the apathetic guy, but the only thing he kept saying was: “Give me 600 rupees.”
We kept trying to explain ourselves and he kept repeating his four-word sentence until he finally said something else: “Wait here”.
We waited for a few moments when suddenly the young Indian guy showed up with an older Indian guy. I recognized the older guy, it was the smiley Indian from the night before, who had said he was the owner of the guest house and had offered me a book from their library. He wasn’t smiling anymore.
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked us in a frozen look.
We started to explain, in a more apologetic way, while thinking it was probably just a language barrier with the young guy that caused all this confusion. But before we had the chance to finish our explanation the older guy pointed to that small hidden sign, the one which said: Checkout time - 12:00.
Tammy looked at her watch and saw that the time was 12:10.
“You gotta be kiddin us. We probably spent the last ten minutes trying to explain ourselves to your employee. You can’t charge us for another full day because we passed the checkout time by ten minutes!” Tammy said in the same combative mood she used on the bus that got us here.
“You pay me for another day. Give me 600 rupees.” He insisted.
“No.” I answered firmly. “No we won’t.”
“Come with me.” he said and started to walk up the stairs of the guest house. Tammy and I looked at each other in a bit of a worry. Should we go with him?
We followed him in hesitation up the staircase that led to a small office. We entered and he closed the door. He set behind his desk and signaled us to sit in the two chairs in front of him.
We set there in silence for a moment while he was writing something in a notebook. Without even looking at us he unexpectedly said: “Give me your passports.”
“What? No!” I yelled at him.
If there was one thing everyone back home told me before I went on this trip, it was to never - ever - give - anyone - my - passport. (Except the airport’s passport control, of course).
By now he was extremely mad and yelled back at me: “Pay me 600 rupees or I will take away your passports!”
I couldn’t take it anymore, I was totally panicking. I stood up and started screaming at him that if he won’t leave us alone I would call the police, and that he was a liar and a con man, and that sentence every tourist screams at Indians when he's mad and thinks they actually give a damn: “ Bad karma for you, my friend! Bad karma!!”
He did care, in fact. He was raging.
He stood up as well and started shouting at the top of his lungs. The veins on his face popped out like Christmas lights. He was all red and his eyes were about to jump out of their sockets. His face was extremely close to mine and in that exact moment I felt that he was about to knock the living daylights out of me.